“Why don’t you like to be touched?” Ana whispered, staring up into soft grey eyes. “Because I’m fifty shades of fucked-up, Anastasia” ~~ E.L. James in Fifty Shades of Grey
From Krista’s Perspective:
Well, here I find myself again having dove into yet another trilogy of books that have hit the mainstream and blown up larger than life. And it makes me sad. Here is a series of books that apparently have sold even more copies than the Harry Potter series and that makes me sad. Is the world that desperate for poorly written novels as long as it breaks the norm? I personally believe that is all that it has boiled down too. Never before has such an erotic novel hit the mainstream to the extent that women everywhere are obsessively raving about this book, women from all ages and walks of life. I’ve never seen anything like it and although I have finished reading all three, I am still questioning why.
Kudos to E.L. James for writing something that allowed her to accomplish her goals. In her prologue she writes that she dreamt of writing stories that readers would fall in love with. Fall in love with? That seems a little farfetched. Become obsessed with? Maybe. I have to believe that today’s society is not willing to fall in love with weak female characters who refer to their sexual libido as their “inner goddess” and maintain no self-control or sense of individuality. I have to believe that society has not become so jaded that we are willing to overlook obsessive control freaks who suffer from manic mood swings because once in a blue moon he does something sweet. I have to believe that society is not celebrating a female character suffering from emotional abuse but who keeps returning to the man because she believes she can change him. I am not referring to the sexual nature of their relationship. What they do behind closed doors, or in their case anywhere and everywhere including the red room of pain, is their prerogative. Yes, I think the book could have sufficed from cutting out about 80% of the sex scenes which eventually became so ridiculous I would only skim over them, but I am referring to the obviously controlling obsessive manner in which Christian treats her. But, giving credit where credit is due, James did exactly what she wanted and I congratulate her on that. She is a worldwide bestseller and that is probably a bigger accomplishment than I will ever achieve.
I could fully describe the context of these three books, but since Lauren is about to do that I would prefer to put it into the perspective of Ana’s evolution in order to give you an idea of how the books progress. Her transformation begins in book one, Fifty Shades of Grey, as the girl who says, “Perhaps I’ve spent too long in the company of my literary romantic heroes, and consequently my ideals and expectations are far too high. But in reality, nobody’s ever made me feel like that.” This is a girl who is educated, wise, searching for a genuinely true love, and most importantly a virgin. Spoiler alert – – her virginity does not last long and she is almost immediately transformed into a sexually kinky explorative girl within her first sexual encounter. Farfetched? I would say so. Apparently meeting someone who is cold, deliberate, hardened, and Dominant who only wants a relationship that resembles a job contract with harshly controlling terms will do that to a girl. In book two, Fifty Shades Darker, we see a girl beginning to fight against this absurd relationship, although it is only momentarily. The character Ana claims, “I don’t have the capacity for idle talk now. No, I want none of it. I have become my own island state. A ravaged, war-torn land where nothing grows and the horizons are bleak. Yes, that’s me.” For those of us who have been screaming since the beginning of book one for Ana to shake her head, wake the hell up, and stop being a sniveling wimp we want to stand up and shout HOORAY that she is finally getting it, finally seeing the error of her decisions. Flee, run away, stop doing this! But no. Sadly, she continues to return and let Christian turn her into a submissive. Although I will give her some credit that she does assert some control and somewhat takes some of the power, but it is very little. By book three, Fifty Shades Freed, we only see a girl who has given in to his control. Her character says, “I feel like I’ve been run over by a train – the freight train that is my husband”. Apparently most people have seen the romantic nature of this throughout the mix of sordid sex scenes but for me I see it only as another act of submissiveness.
I will give the series this. It compels you to continue reading. I could have stopped after the first book. We all could have. But the abrupt manner in which the first book comes to a conclusion compels you to continue on. Then you just keep reading because you just don’t understand, because you want to believe its going to get better, that she will stop giving into the torture she is putting herself through. The first book is so infuriating but once you hit the second installment and the characters begin to develop, you can’t seem to put it down until you finish. Maybe the best thing I can compare it to is a car wreck that you can’t look away from.
I want to conclude with a positive. The only saving grace for this series was this. I found it to be a very interesting look at the life of an adult male who has survived a past of sexual abuse, torture, and neglect. I can honestly say I have never read anything like it. I was talking about the books with my sister, a psychiatric nurse, and she was shocked at the impression I had taken away from it. Of all the renowned nurses and doctors she works with, who were raving about the books, none of them ever mentioned anything of the sort. To me, it was an odd look into the world of someone who has been abused, their recovery, their hard limits, their triggers. Abuse is sadly a very significant part of today’s society and I found it to be very interesting to read it from the perspective of a male who had endured this type of abuse. I don’t say this to excuse or rationalize any of Christian’s behavior but only to say that I found it the most compelling part of the books.
If you have read them already, I hope you enjoyed them as countless others have. But for me personally, once was enough and I can honestly not foresee ever feeling the desire to turn these pages again. Am I glad I read them? In a way, yes. I am glad I could personally witness what has circled the world and become a bestselling phenomena. Other than that, I am ready for the next book to dive into.
Plot – 2 out of 5 (not for me personally but obviously was compelling enough to keep us reading)
Writing/Style/Form – 0 out of 5
Characters – 2 out of 5 (although not an enjoyable read, some of the characters maintained some depth)
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 1 out of 5 (I feel it deserves some sort of rating because obviously I made it through them all)
Overall Score – 5 out of 20
From Lauren’s Perspective:
So here it is in a nutshell:
Book 1 Synopsis: Girl falls in love with asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Girl is stalked by asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Asshole does some mildly cute things. Girl has sex with asshole. Girl hopes to change asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Asshole doesn’t change.
Book 2 Synopsis: Girl tries really hard to stay away from asshole (for one whole week). Girl gets back together with asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Reader finds out about some ridiculous back story and the reason why our beloved asshole is such an asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. There is some completely arbitrary danger in which asshole proves once more how big a control freak he is. Girl has sex with asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Cliffhanger meant to leave readers wanting more but we all know it’s going to happen so it’s not really much of a cliffhanger.
Book 3 Synopsis: Girl won’t give into assholes request because she’s a “strong” female. Girl has completely debasing sex with asshole. More unimportant back story that doesn’t make me feel bad for the asshole at all. More completely useless dangers that almost end their lives and cause them to fight even more. Girl has sex with asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Girl has sex with asshole. Big plot point that proves how big an asshole he is. Arbitrary danger causes him to realize the error of his ways. Lots of sex. And they live happily ever after.
There is nothing more to the book than what I have written, so if that seems up your alley, by all means, give it a shot. But I truly believe everyone out there would probably be better off never having read these books. I know I would be. They are not intellectually stimulating in the slightest. And the sex scenes that I was told were “oh so steamy” were shocking for about a second, then completely debasing, before moving on to completely boring. The books main character should know better than getting involved with a guy like Christian, and having a guy like Christian as the heartthrob of the story makes me concerned for women around the world. If this is what women are looking for, the world is even more fucked up than I thought.
Before I read these books I imagined I would find them mildly entertaining, easy to read, frustrating as hell, and terribly written; and I was absolutely right, but it was so much worse then even I had anticipated. They’re bad. Honestly, they’re just so bad. E.L. James constructs a sentence as though she barely knows the English language, using and reusing the same words, sentences, descriptions and sayings over and over and over again. It is tiresome. It is exhausting. It is extremely frustrating. Add to that the subject matter of the book and you have something that is barely readable yet extremely frustrating and infuriating because of the downright stupidity of such characters. There is nothing redeeming about anyone in this book.
The character of Anastasia Steele is a pretty decent character on her own, for the few pages we know her before she meets Christian. She is a pretty girl with self-esteem issues who is into reading, has a University degree, and a desire to work in the publishing world. Her downfall is her naivety, as she has apparently never had any sort of feelings for a guy before in her 21 years. If this character had been written in any other context and didn’t end up with a guy like Christian, she could have been a character that many women easily related too. But within her first bumbling minutes of literally falling over herself when she meets Christian, all her positive attributes leave her immediately and she becomes nothing more than a doting girl with her jaw to the floor exclaiming “oh my” over and over again. She tries to prove herself as a self-sufficient woman many times throughout the series, proving she won’t give into her “oh so controlling fifty”, but it always falls shorts, she always regrets her decisions and she always ends up giving in to her controlling suitors every whim.
Then there is the character of Christian Grey, and while I disliked Ana, Grey’s character absolutely baffled me. James writes him with enough enigma that you are sort of drawn in, mildly at least, to his overt confidence and ability to control a room. But he is immediately shown as such a terrible human being that despite his certain moments of extreme tenderness, I could do nothing but hate him. And those few moments of tenderness he does show, they mystify me even more than his darker side. To me, it is impossible for a person to live in the way he does. To go from one extreme to the next is just not a human trait I can believe in. You are either controlling or not. You are either sweet or you’re not. To jump back and forth proving he is both monster and perfect boyfriend is beyond my comprehension. The fact that he holds these traits, trying to control the woman he supposedly loves in every single way, makes the idea that millions of women around the world love this character heartbreaking.
The only characters who I genuinely liked were the secondary characters in the novel. Christians brother, sister and parents are lovely and make a happy family. Ana’s family is loving and caring albeit a bit detached from her life, and her roommate Kate was my favourite of all despite her short appearances in the books. She’s a ballsy, take-no-nonsense woman who stands her ground next to Christian, which is just what he needs. She doesn’t trust Christian from the start and that’s the kind of girl I could get along with.
The characters of Ana and Christian were just hard to relate to and became excruciatingly annoying as they went back and forth between love and hate, pain and pleasure, sex and more sex. It all became a little bland when it wasn’t completely infuriating.
The novel itself gave me enough intrigue to continue reading, despite its dreadful vocabulary and completely pointless storyline. But this has more to do with my need to finish a book and my inability to read a series without getting drawn into the characters then it had to do with any talent James might have as a writer. The best thing I can say about these books is they might give you a laugh. Beyond that, it’s better to just stay away. I wish I had. And I don’t think I’ve ever said that about a book before in my life.
And just to really drive my point home, some of the better lines from the book:
“I want you sore, baby,” he murmurs, and he continues his sweet, leisurely torment, backward, forward. “Every time you move tomorrow, I want you to be reminded that I’ve been here. Only me. You are mine.”
“This is a man in need. His fear is naked and obvious, but he’s lost. . . Somewhere in his darkness. His eyes wide and bleak and tortured. I can soothe him. Join him briefly in the darkness and bring him into the light.”
“Oh Christian… my possessive, jealous, control freak Christian.”
“Life is never going to be boring with Christian, and I’m in this for the long haul. I love this man: my husband, my lover, father of my child, my sometimes Dominant……my Fifty Shades.”
So there you have it. You decide.
Plot – 0 out of 5
Writing/Style/Form – 0 out of 5
Characters – 0 out of 5
Enjoyment/Entertainment Value – 0 out of 5
Overall Score – 0 out of 20